NOAA 2000-407
Contact: Connie Barclay


Environmental experts from four government agencies, acting as natural resource "trustees" on behalf of the public, are working cooperatively with Pepco to assess and restore the natural resource injuries caused by the Chalk Point, Maryland, oil spill. As the emergency phase of response efforts to clean up and contain the spilled oil from the Chalk Point Generating Station wind down, damage assessment and restoration efforts are now underway.

Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Pepco is responsible for returning injured natural resources to pre-spill conditions and compensating the public for the loss of natural resources from the time they are injured until they are restored. The trustee agencies are responsible for making sure that Pepco fulfills this obligation to adequately compensate the public and the environment for injuries.

"While the images of spilled oil and injured marshes are disheartening, Pepco's willingness to work cooperatively with the trustees makes us hopeful that natural resources in the area will be fully restored, " said Craig R. O'Connor, deputy general counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead trustee agency for the Chalk Point spill.

The oil leak from a Pepco-owned pipeline released approximately 110,000 gallons of #2 and #6 fuel into a marsh on the property of Pepco's Chalk Point generating station. Since the spill was discovered on April 7, 2000, natural resource trustees have worked closely with Pepco to identify injuries and develop plans for restoring the injured natural resources.

"As one of the most-studied tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, there is a wealth of information available on the natural resources that inhabit the Patuxent River. These historical data will allow the trustees to plan restoration projects that guarantee that the public will continue to enjoy and benefit from healthy natural resources," said John Wolflin, field supervisor for the Chesapeake Bay Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Trustee agencies are continuing to collect samples and assess the impacts to finfish, shellfish, wildlife, surface waters, and sediments in the Patuxent River. They are collecting information on the spill's impact on recreational boating, fishing, shell fishing, crabbing, and other water-related activities. Local watermen will assist in some sampling efforts to assess long-term impacts from the spilled oil. Data collection will continue for at least several months.

After the data are analyzed, the trustees will evaluate the need for and type and amount of restoration required to restore the natural resource injuries and to compensate the public for the lost use of resources harmed by the spill. The trustees will work with Pepco on restoration planning and on providing periodic progress reports to the public. The trustees will also establish an administrative record that provides all data and reports to any interested members of the public.

Based on collected information and input from the public and Pepco, the trustees will develop a draft natural resource restoration plan. The draft plan will describe assessment activities and natural resource injuries, evaluate restoration alternatives, and identify restoration projects that will address injured natural resources and public uses. The draft plan will be available for public review and comment.

"This accident has been a real tragedy. For many years, the State and the people who live on the Patuxent have worked hard to preserve, protect and restore this beautiful river," said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers. "We are committed to thoroughly assessing the damages, working with the citizens of this area to chart a course that will restore this river to the condition it was in before the spill."

The following agencies are trustees for the natural resources injured by the Chalk Point spill: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

"We deeply regret this unfortunate accident," said Bill Sim, Pepco's vice president of generation. "We are committed to offering every level of support within our means to advance the local cleanup effort and work until the affected environment is fully restored."

When coastal and marine natural resources are injured by releases of oil, hazardous substances, or vessel groundings in protected areas, NOAA works on behalf of the public to restore those injured resources. NOAA's trustee responsibilities are implemented by the Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, a NOAA-wide effort involving the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Office of General Counsel.

For more information: please contact Ann Berger, NOAA Damage Assessment and Restoration Program at (301)713-3038, or see our web site at